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What is site 1121?

 

A group of students from the University of Washington Department of Landscape Architecture, with the support of  local volunteers and WSECU, spent the week of March 21 working on a vacant lot on the SW corner of NE 45th St and 12th Ave NE in the University District.

 

The group prepared the site by laying out boardwalks and work tables. Work days were spent cleaning up the site and making it more navigable; identifying and sketching the pioneer plant community that is reclaiming the site; and preparing for excavation work.

 

Preliminary site excavation enabled access to the foundation “ruins”, and continued light excavation allowed investigation into the geologic and developmental history of the site.

 

Excavations and section trenches permitted closer study of plant roots and the material and cultural remains of the site’s past. Volunteers engaged in a slowed-down process of documenting their findings, and were encouraged to follow their intuition in getting to know the site and revealing its character through this process.

 

As the work on site unfolded, participants also curated the site by reorganizing its contents in preparation for visitors on the last day. This process is known as assemblage, the simple act of rearranging found materials to tell a story that is present but not yet told.

 

On the afternoon of Friday March 25, the work culminated with a reception, giving a diverse group of neighbors and community members a unique chance to tour the site and to have their own experience of its revealed characteristics. The event was also a wrap party for the students, artists, and volunteers who brought this experimental urban garden to life through the simple expression of curiosity.

 

"...here in this site lie vital forces left dormant by society..."   - Christoph Girot

 

Site 1121: Field Notes is an experimental landscape installation, part of Britton Shepard's Master's Thesis in Landscape Architecture at the University of Washington. His research explores fallow urban conditions as opportunities for re-engagement with the landscape.

The goal of the project is to gain a deeper understanding of our landscape by working directly with a site in a new way. Throughout the installation week, we will employ methods of scientific field study, basic design techniques, and the art form of assemblage, to re-imagine and re-invent this urban site that is taken for granted.

Our working, experiential--and temporary--landscape is a collaboration between students in landscape architecture and other university programs, as well as local artists and volunteers, with the generous support of WSECU, owners of the property.

 

 

 

ABOUT THE SITE: A HISTORY OF CHANGE

 

This site’s history is part of the continuous change of the urban fabric. 

WSECU has been in the U-District neighborhood since 1984, and this site is to be the home of their new University District branch.

WSECU's support of Site 1121 - Field Notes is what makes this exciting new project possible. It is a reflection of their long-standing commitment to partnerships in their community and to being open to new ideas that enrich the neighborhood.

The collaboration is about embracing change as an opportunity for growth and appreciation, and about people coming together to make possible what before was not possible.

These images from the public archive help tell the story of change in this site:


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the Installation: process

 

Site 1121 is a project both operational and philosophical. It takes landscape to be a process rather than the formal built outcome we typically expect. This process will unfold in three phases: excavation, documentation, and re-assemblage.

 

Excavation

The excavation phase entails the initial marking of the site, followed by the construction of the project’s physical framing: signage, boundaries, walkways, shelter. Significant excavations will shape the way we perceive and interact with the site, permitting a look into the layers of the terrain, and beginning to make the site understandable-at-a-glance.

 

Documentation

The second phase is documentation, the expression of our engagement with the site’s materiality, including careful screening and sorting of excavated materials, identification and cataloguing of all spontaneous plants on site, and hands-on familiarization of the site through editing and place-making. These activities will center around discovering, identifying and naming through sketching, photographing, and writing of field notes.

 

Reassembly

In the project’s third phase, our interaction with the site moves from the process of “knowing what is known” a step further to reassembly. The idea is to follow a response of understanding to the particularity of the site, now revealed and examined, and to create a new place amid the old. This is the experimental garden. No materials need be hauled away, and no new materials imported. The belief is that the engagement of this humble site, by a group of people who inhabit it, is sufficient to create a garden immediately recognizable to others, though it is created from entirely uncommon circumstances.

landing and finding

 

Site 1121-Field Notes is a visible-to-the-neighborhood engagement with a humble site. Seeing past the shallow forms of the built environment, it delves into its lesser-appreciated and undiscovered layers. This will be an experiential, site-specific landscape activationby a group of curious activists.

Site 1121-Field Notes is making a claim: that through wonderment and curiosity, people can experience an immediate, profound, and lasting, connection to a hierarchy of truth dwelling in the landscape as an underlying source of meanings. This project will also assert the role of the landscape architect as reader and storyteller.

 

The project will begin with a simple reframing of the site, using recognizable built forms such as walkways, string-lines, a central tent for shelter, and informational signage. These are mere temporary forms, yet they communicate that something new and exciting is happening here, and serve as an invitation to anyone who is curious to find out more.

 

 

 
 

 

Once the site preparation is in place, the field work begins. Students and volunteers will join local experts in the slowed-down exploration of the site. Following pre-scripted methods borrowed from earth sciences, participants will excavate, sort, sketch, photograph, and identify the myriad elements found in the site. Geometric excavations will be visible, and work tables will provide a stage of sorts for handling and cataloguing. This engagement of the site through direct experience is the primary focus of the project. It is a response, even an homage, to Christoph Girot’s Four Trace Concepts of Landing, Grounding, Finding, Founding.

 
 
 

Each participant in the project will take on one of many prescribed roles. Most students and volunteers will carry out the field study and site framing work described above. One other essential role will be on the part of our site docents who will greet curious newcomers and provide information and tours of the project underway. Docents will be able to briefly explain the background of the project and answer questions. They are a human connection between the project and the urban ecosystem that is its crucial context.

 
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FIELD REPORT

 

One of the core ideas of this project is to employ field methods to carry out Girot's explorations of "wonderment and curiosity" throughout the site.

A field methodology does two complementary things: first, it provides a logical and repeatable framework for site exploration; and, at the same time, it permits a free and intuitive process.

The patient work of excavation, sketching, and photography engender an aesthetic that we recognize. Further, the field study and documentation also define clear roles for student and volunteer participation:

 

Site Preparation + Marking

  • labor (site cleanup, initial marking, signage)
  • Site Framing, Construction, Excavation
  • labor (digging)
  • labor (driving)
  • labor (site maintenance)
 

SITE MATERIALS + HANDLING

  • sorting materials/organization
  • curating of displays and “gallery” in ruins
  • ompiling of field report

Site documentation

  • field notes and observations
  • sketching of artifacts, section walls, plants and roots
  • photography of site, artifacts, personnel
  • specialty field studies by archaeology, geology, botany
 

Site Curation

  • reassemblage and gallery presentation of found materials
  • receiving visitors and leading tours: docent
  • selected interviews, recorded or transcribed

contributors

FIELD NOTES is lucky to have some great artists, designers, thinkers, and neighborhood activists contributing to the project.


Judson Felder
Photographer
www.judsonfelder.com

Jud is a photographer and cinematographer from Seattle. He's the best.


Laura Haddad
Landscape Architect & Artist
Website

Laura Haddad is an artist and landscape architect, with a Master’s degree in landscape architecture from U.C. Berkeley and a Bachelor’s degree in history from Bowdoin College. In addition to her work as an environmental artist, her background also includes jewelry and stage set design. She has taught at the University of Washington and the Rhode Island School of Design.

 


Mark Bourne is currently pursuing a Master’s of Science in Architectural Theory at the University of Washington, as the recipient of the Jones and Jones Endowed Fellowship and the Architectural Foundation Scholarship. His research examines the relationship between gardens and buildings, focusing on boundaries, thresholds, and the definition of interior and exterior in the architectural environment of Shoin-style Zen temples. This research is grounded in his training as an apprentice to one of Japan’s foremost living garden creators.

Mark Bourne
Doctoral Candidate
UW College of Built Environments
www.windsmithdesign.com


We are happy to thank the faculty and students from the schools of:

  • Botany
  • Landscape Architecture
  • College of Built Environments

Brad is a Northwest photographer, cinematographer and editor in the pursuit of capturing meaningful, authentic and compelling stories.

Brad Curran
Cinematographer / Photographer
www.bradcurran.com


ROOTS Young Adult Shelter

University District

www.rootsinfo.org

Site1121 will be welcoming small teams from ROOTS to participate in the work on site. ROOTS and WSECU have an established relationship within the University District Community. Many on the ROOTS volunteer staff are UW students.

Rising Out of the Shadows (ROOTS) Mission Statement: ROOTS Young Adult Shelter builds community and fosters dignity through access to essential services and a safe place to sleep for young adults experiencing homelessness.

Thank you WSECU!

WSECU is generously sponsoring and hosting the Site 1121 project in the location of their new University District branch office.